Marianne and Alistair Hodge have been welcoming hundreds of children to their mixed arable and livestock farm every year for the last 10 years. And that dedication at Whitsome farm has resulted in them being shortlisted for an Innovative Learning Award, given to farm businesses demonstrating commitment to working with children, encouraging an understanding of and interest in current farming practices, whether utilising technology, thinking creatively about showing modern, sustainable farming, or raising awareness.
Specifically, judges compiling the shortlist were impressed with the pair’s passion and commitment to explaining how a farm works, looking at precision farming, soils and sustainability, machinery and mechanisation, as well as how to tell the difference between different crop and animal types.
With the urban/rural divide increasing, and many schools not including agriculture within the curriculum, there are many examples of young people lacking understanding about where food comes from, how it is produced and also the career opportunities within an increasingly technologically-advanced industry.
Many farmers respond to those challenges by providing opportunities for young people to visit farms to take part in educational activities and learn more about food and farming, in a safe environment.
With a slightly new format recognising differences in approaches to primary and secondary schools, farming education charity LEAF Education and leading agricultural company Bayer Crop Science aim to highlight the best examples with these awards, which will be presented at a prestigious venue in November.
Leading the judging process, Janet Hickinbottom, national education officer at LEAF Education, said: “We have a strong tradition of working together to celebrate the tremendous work carried out by unsung heroes who do so much to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the countryside with young people.”
She added: “The process is not an easy one, but the outcome is always exhilarating as we uncover what goes on during these inspiring collaborations between schools and farms.”
“The standard of entry this year has been fantastic,” said Carl Edwards, director of LEAF Education.
“There were so many great examples of innovative practices making a real difference to the education young people receive.”